Itīs definitely worth riding some roads twice, once in each direction. The road south from Chimbote to Lima goes through some stunning desert culminating in a climb and then descent over the biggest dunes youīve ever seen.
The terrain changes fairly suddenly at the border between Ecuador and Peru. In Ecuador itīs wall-to-wall banana plantations with mangrove swamps on the coast, then when you reach Tumbes (the first place of any size in Peru and where Pizarro landed) thereīs a couple of token plantations and then unremitting desert. There are some superb white sandy beaches, miles and miles of them, with sporadic settlements, but mainly the desert is the beach and the Panamericana cuts straight through; there was a very strong wind off the Pacific this week which made the riding tiring and delivered a free facial exfoliation.
There was some sort of protest about health services going on near Machala on my way out of Ecuador. The road was blocked with the usual rocks and burning tyres, and I had to squeeze through around two miles of stationary trucks and buses to get to the block itself.
Naturally there were plenty of police and soldiers hanging around watching, and they very kindly persuaded the protesters that as I was a stray English tourist I should be let through and, no, not have my tyres slashed while I threaded through a very narrow gap they allowed me.
The hotel in Chimbote was a hoot - very dreary and cavernous, and it was perfectly clear that the presence of any guests was extremely detrimental to the smooth running of the establishment. Made Basil Fawlty look positively hospitable. The advantages were the price (low), the view (local fishing fleet anchored off shore) and very secure parking. I nearly got the waiter to smile once, I think.
Iīve managed to lose the Coyhaique sticker on the pannier. That means I have to go back and get another one. Fabiola will kill me.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at October 01, 2005 05:22 PM GMT